Kinky, meet quirky

Blue-collar, boots and drag queens come together in "Kinky Boots" musical


Blend blue-collar Brits with drag queens wearing the title’s Kinky Boots and you get a musical rousing enough to both win a Broadway Tony and a packed house at the Orpheum.

This writer didn’t completely share the enthusiasm shown by the audience that jumped up for a standing ovation, but the show generates enough good will to make it a worthy choice to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Omaha Performing Arts and start this season’s Broadway Across America series.

The collaboration between Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper works best when Act I winds up with the co-stars sharing “Not My Father’s Son” followed  by the entire ensemble celebrating on the shoe factory production line with “Everybody Say Yeah.” As big production numbers go, that lively cavorting on conveyor belts was simply more likable than the super-glitzy finale at an unlikely fashion reveal of the flashy boots in Milan.

But no qualifiers are needed to rave about the performance of Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola, the drag queen. She rescues Charlie Price and the workers at his family shoe factory by inspiring their new line of thigh boots with stiletto heels. Steven Booth serves well enough as Charlie but there’s no doubt who shines brightest on their “Father’s Son” duet.

Parker is so confidently in character, whether in the spotlight as Lola, or un-costumed as the man he is in biological terms. It’s an equal pleasure to watch this performer move proudly as him or her, and his vocals are all highlights.

His authenticity goes a long way toward making the completely predictable sub-plot—Lola winning over the blue-collar lunk to accept their differences—a little more realistic. It also helps that the crowd likes Joe Coots as the lunky bruiser.

He’s the big ex-football player named Don who outgrows his hostility to the cross-dressing Lola with the help of her generosity in a lopsided boxing match. Coots and Lindsay Nicole Chambers were the supporting players whose roles gave them the best shot at capturing the crowd.

Chambers, a factory worker with a crush on boss Charlie, got good mileage from mugging and other physical comedy.

She competes with Charlie’s fiancé, Nicola, a sleek executive played by Charissa Hogeland. Of course, given the conventions of romantic comedy, sleek beauties don’t have a chance against good old factory girls.

As for the Angels, the cross-dressing entourage that accompanies Lola on and off stage, they test the viewers’ tolerance on gender identity. It’s quite unsophisticated of me to be checking the cast list to make sure they’re all really men, and then judging them by how completely they look like woman.  At least I didn’t assign numerical ratings on a feminine glamour scale.

And I don’t think I winced when one of the fellows had a hard stage landing when he did the splits.

At the risk of running into another gender stereotype or two, note that casting supplied the Price and Son shoe factory with male workers who seemed fittingly burly and a few women who matched their heroic dimensions.

Such regular guys and gals won’t mind if America keeps enjoying these working-class imports that go back at least to The Full Monty and Billy Elliott and arguably include Alfie Doolittle’s cohorts in My Fair Lady.

Kinky Boots runs through Sunday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday in the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway series at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Tickets, $30 to $95, are available through TicketOmaha.com or 402.345.0606.


Category: Art, Literary

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